Irish Republican News · September 14, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

The family of Pat Finucane has renewed demands for a public inquiry into the murder following the conviction of unionist paramilitary Ken Barrett yesterday.

The Belfast defence lawyer was gunned down in front of his family at their north Belfast home in February 1989 by a death squad operating under the supervision of British forces.

The British government was unable to confirm that Barrett’s dramatic confession meant a public inquiry into collusion in the killing could finally go ahead.

Mrs Geraldine Finucane, who was shot in the ankle by her husband’s killers, said yesterday’s proceedings brought her “no peace and no closure”.

“Our main priority has always been the people behind the gunmen who directed them, the people who directed the entire operation that seems to have been carried out in Northern Ireland for a long number of years.

“It’s the policy makers that we want to hold accountable. This trial which did not take place today certainly brings us no nearer that truth.”

Her son, Michael, said the main reason cited by the British government for not initiating a judicial inquiry had now been removed.

“The government should now set out the way ahead. When does the inquiry begin? Excuses and further prosecutions back up our fear of drip-feeding delays.”

He said the British Prime Minister was obliged to act on his Weston Park commitments. “It’s over to you Mr Blair.”

Sinn Féin and the SDLP, backed the family’s appeal and renewed their calls for an immediate judicial inquiry.

Barrett, who was a police informer at the time of the killing, pleaded guilty at the beginning of his trial.

He also admitted attempting to murder Mrs Geraldine Finucane, possessing weapons with intent to endanger life and membership of the paramilitary UDA.

The 41-year-old’s admission placed renewed pressure on the British government to press ahead with a public inquiry into the murder.

It has already announced its intention to hold inquiries into three other controversial killings. However, the exact details of where and when they are going to happen have yet to be given.

British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy had said an inquiry into Mr Finucane’s murder, the most controversial of the conflict, could not begin because of ongoing criminal proceedings, but would not say last night if Barrett’s confession had cleared the way.

British officials said they had no role in the timing of yesterday’s court hearing -- coming the same week as crunch peace negotiations begin in England -- and refused to comment on allegations that a deal had been brokered with Barrett.

Due to be sentenced later this week, he could be freed within months under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Michael Finucane, also a lawyer, said: “It would not surprise me if a deal was done - that in return for a guilty plea, Mr Barrett would be guaranteed protection, anonymity and entry into a witness protection programme.

“The government is more obliged than ever to do something to try and address the damage, the issue of collusion.”

Mr Finucane said he did not know if the timing of yesterday’s hearing -- coming the same week as new political negotiations -- was a coincidence, but he urged all the parties, nationalist and unionist, to raise the need for a public inquiry with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“I am just glad it (the Barrett case) is over, because it removes the last major obstacle to the establishment of a public inquiry,” he said.

“The government said when the Cory report was published in April that it would set out the way ahead at the conclusion of prosecution.

“This is the only prosecution there is. It is now concluded. The government therefore must set out the way ahead.

“When is the public inquiry going to start? When will its terms of reference be clarified?

“Those are the only questions left to be answered.

“I look to the British government to answer them.”

Asked how he felt about Barrett’s admission of guilt, Mr Finucane said: “It is important but it is not the most significant thing.

“I don’t think Ken Barrett is anything like the most important player in all of this.

“He is a very long way from the top of the food chain.

“I hope that a public inquiry will establish that.

“Peter Cory said when he concluded his investigation he came across intelligence papers that were marked for the attention of Cabinet.

“There has been a suspicion for a very long time that the issue of collusion between the state and loyalist paramilitaries went all the way to the top.

“This would appear to be evidence to support that theory.

“These are matters of serious public concern - they need to be addressed in a public forum where conspiracy theories can be separated from conspiracy fact.

“The appropriate forum for that is a public inquiry.”

A spokesman for Downing Street, when pressed on the issue twice, would only say: “We will have to look at the implication of this (outcome of the court case).”

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© 2004 Irish Republican News